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Event #7

#CdnImm Event #7 - Information & Referral in Settlement Services
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM (EDT)
North York Central Library Auditorium, 5120 Yonge St


Information & Referral in Settlement Services. The aim of this session is to better understand current practices and challenges with how settlement agencies are providing I&R, and consider the options ahead to ensure the best possible services for newcomers. It is an opportunity to connect with practitioners in the settlement sector (settlement workers, researchers/academics) with an interest in I&R as well as link with other I&R practitioners and experts to collaborate on common challenges.

Session notes

This is #CdnImm Event #7: Information & Referral in Settlement
September 11, 2012 | 1-5 pm | North York Central Library Auditorium
Organizers: Lorraine Hudson (OCASI), Doug Bastien (OCASI)

Event notes


Faed Henry, FindHelp

Part 1 Part 2



Faed HenryManager, Training and Outreach (CIRS), Findhelp Information Services

Faed Henry is a Certified Information & Referral Specialist (CIRS) who is Manager of Training and Outreach with Findhelp Information Services in Toronto. He has worked in various capacities at Findhelp since 1989. Faed regularly conducts training and credentialing programs related to information, assessment and referral throughout Ontario and North America.

Faed has served as the Chairperson of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) Standards Committee which developed the most recent edition of the Professional Standards for Information & Referral and Quality Indicators. AIRS is a professional membership association with over 1,000 organizations. Faed is currently President of AIRS and conducts regular accreditation site visits to Community Information Centres and 211 agencies throughout North America.

Faed conducts regular workshops on Information, Referral and Communication Skills as well as Understanding the Human Services System. He has provided hundreds of customized training workshops with consistently strong evaluations and positive feedback including sessions for the following organizations:

  • 311 Toronto
  • Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities – Employment Ontario
  • Community Care Access Centres
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada
  • Global Experience Ontario
  • Service Ontario
  • Youth4Health
  • Centre for Community Learning & Development

In his spare time, he volunteers as a youth soccer coach with the East York Soccer Club.

Andrew Chung, Skills For Change

Andrew ChungLead, Innovation Projects, Skills for Change Having been with Skills for Change for about 4 years, Andrew is focusing his energies on impacting social change through innovation and collaboration. Some of the projects currently in incubation under his leadership are the gender-based analysis and the Ideation Uncommittee. Andrew graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, and minored in Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Management. He's worked in the non-profit sector for over 7 years with some fantastic organizations and in between dabbled in his own consultancy as a strategic planning facilitator, as a law student at the University of Ottawa, and in grassroots campaign management. In 2003, Andrew received the Lincoln M. Alexander Award for his work towards the elimination of racial discrimination in Ontario and in 2006, received the BMO Financial Group Diversity Award for his leadership in diversity and inclusion activities. In 2009, Andrew continued his volunteer efforts with the Asian Community AIDS Services, an organization that provides HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, queer youth programming and services, and support to people living with HIV/AIDS. In 2010, he was elected as Vice-Chair of the board of the Asian Community AIDS Services and served as Co-Chair of the Strategic Planning and Fundraising sub-committees.

Karine Shynkarenko, YMCA GTA

Karine ShynkarenkoTeam Leader, Newcomer Information Centre, YMCA of Greater Toronto Karine is currently working at the YMCA Newcomer Information Centre. She holds a Degree in Economics and Diploma in Community Development from George Brown College. Her former experience includes working with youth and the Red Cross, and participating in conferences and working groups of the United Nations and UNESCO.

At the YMCA, Karine has held a variety of positions from front-line worker to Information & Referral Specialist, to her current position as a team leader of the Newcomer Information Centre. The centre provides a variety of services including up-to-date information and referrals and information sessions for new immigrants, to support newcomers in their integration into Canadian society.

More info


CdnImm #7 - Information & Referral (I&R) in Settlement Services

Introduction- Douglas Bastien, OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

  • Reviewed past topics, emphasized range of topics
  • Importance of linking with other people and learning more together
  • Topics come fromthe sector
  • Opportunity to share printed information materials (resource table)


  • Upcoming stakeholder roundtables at Toronto Public Library

First Speaker- Faed Hendry, Manager, Training and Outreach (CIRS) Findhelp Information Services / Services d'information Findhelp


  • #CdnImm events a great opportunity to learn, share, network
  • Third event attended by Faed
  • Different lenses to look at I&R (e.g. settlement, systemic perspective)


  • A look at current trends, developments and challenges in I&R
    • Sometimes current practices are the challenges.

Assumptions & Assertions about I&R

  • Critical part of settlement work (interwound, component of job)
  • CIC Modernized Approach to settlement services: all areas/outcomes relate to I&R

Current Practices

  • Additional channels for access
  • We have gone from rotary phone, rolodex, cheat sheets, etc. to social media
  • How people access information is radically changing
  • Challenge for sector: use technology effectively to benefit our clients

Examples of current practices

  • OCASI and Ontario 211 Twitter feeds
  • Facebook pages as useful tool to get timely and important information out, e.g. “Goderich Ontario Tornado Victims and Support”
  • Social media allow for reaching broader audience more quickly
  • Mobile App: search, save, view resources
  • Online chat with settlement worker at YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford
  • Settlement kiosks
  • York Region Welcome Centres have outreach van with scheduled stops

In sum

  • Additional access channels provide more choice.
  • Main role of technology is to enhance or strengthen human contact, not replace or duplicate existing role of settlement worker

Standards for Professional I&R(since 1973)

  • Establish reference points for practices within the field (standards have 6 areas - some apply more or less to settlement work)
  • Constantly being updated as technology, situation changes
  • AIRS currently being updated, particularly around use of social media

AIRS Certification

  • Settlement and other I&R specialists
  • Ontario has high proportion of AIRS certified people (more than any place in North America)
  • Transition to Computer-Based Testing in 2013
  • Showed certification exam composition

211 Ontario

  • 7 providers in the province (free, confidential, multilingual information on social services, government, community organizations)

Changes - How We Learn

  • New tools, resources online, e.g. OCASI Learn At Work (free webinars, engaging, self-directed)


  • Change in itself
  • How do we measure the quality of our I&R service delivery?
  • Common (and not so common) metrics:
    • Highlighted ones (Faed thinks are important):* Client satisfaction
  • Cost per call
  • Occupancy rate (business of the service)
  • Aggregate performance
  • First call resolution

Service Quality Measurement (SQM)

  • Consulting company that assists call centres
  • Challenges of SQM:
    • Mandated by funder (difficult, because people don’t like to answer and staff don’t like to ask)
  • SFS - Survey Fatigue Syndrome
  • Measures client service satisfactionnot outcomes(important not to confuse the two)
  • It’s not what our clients can do for us...but what we can do for them


  • Primary purpose should be to see if clients needs are being met, i.e. meet needs of clent, not organization

Data & Information Management

  • Huge challenge; lots of work behind the scenes to keep information updated
  • OCASI Sectoral Database Study 2004 - fragmentation, inefficiency, hope* Findings still more or less true today

Developing Partnerships

  • Another challenge
  • August 2012 #CdnImm event was on this topic
  • Calls for partnerships nowadays in settlement sectors (require mutual trust, respect - can be difficult, unequal between agencies)
  • Agencies encouraged to partner, yet encouraged to compete
  • Reasons/benefits:
  • Organizations bring different skills


  • Period of rapid change in I&R
  • People want information now- elevated expectations

Second Speaker - Andrew Chung, Lead, Innovation Projects Skills for Change(SFC)


  • SFC follows FindHelp’s standards - Faed provided good intro, foundation
  • Opened in 1982
  • 5 service locations (6 locations total)
  • Direction: staying relevant and practical by using technology...

I&R is everything we do (internal and external)

  • All things lead to employment

I&R Partnerships

  • Housing access and support services (Fred Victor Centre, LEF)
  • Settlement services (CCLCS)
  • Licensing and regulatory bodies (CGAO, CMA, Mothercraft, Multilingual Language Support...)

I&R Streamlining

  • Avoid sending a client repeatedly from one place to another
  • Employment, settlement, language (all in one place rather than sending person out and about)

Social Tech + Internal Capacity

  • Social media (FB, Twitter - feed on front page specifically with type of info clients looking for, LinkedIn, Tumblr)
  • Social tech
  • Salesforce,
  • Eventbrite - course schedule, registration online - instead of printed calendar
  • Google Hangout - testing it out currently, e.g. clients who don’t have childcare
  • Google Apps
  • Interactive lobbies (experience-oriented client service and tracking)
  • like Apple store
  • Innovative social technologies make organization function as more cohesive unit by dismantling silos between departments
  • Leads to greater efficiency and effectiveness in delivery of excellent services
  • Approach of SFC: go where the clients are, not expect them to come to us

I&R: The Near Future

  • Interactive lobbies
  • Innovation office; working outside social services paradigm
  • Gender-based analysis:
  • Examining systemic barriers immigrant women encountering when trying to access SFC services and I&R

  • Cloud-based tech strategy for a mobile workforce (access all info in one place)
  • Research: smartphone usage, use apps...
  • Online presence (monitoring website traffic, Twitter “Klout”, FB, LinkedIn)
  • Tents vs. Palace
  • Value of being nimble, responsive in times of change (i.e. going out and about in community)

Third Speaker - Karine Shynkarenko, Team Leader, Newcomer Information Centre YMCA of Greater Toronto

I&R Practices and Challenges - Introduction

  • Presentation aimed at people (frontline workers) working face-to-face with clients
  • Still many people who don’t know much about computers, i.e. be careful about moving too much online

Understanding of Newcomer Profile

  • Permanent immigration class vs. temporary visa status
  • Important to know in order to provide correct information
  • Importance of how we greet, treat clients (respect)
  • When immigration status changes, services available change

Importance of I&R Process

  • Needs assessment: settlement, health, education, legal, housing, employment/short- and long-term goals, among others
  • Make eye contact; avoid just ticking off the list without looking at the person
  • Make sure people know/understand rights
  • Services: consider accessibility, sensitivity
  • Language
  • Age
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • School environment for children
  • Weather
  • Connection
  • Holidays
  • Food, etc.
  • Assess amount of assistance clients need in order to provide more or less assistance as appropriate
  • Make sure information provided is up to date
  • Consider not only location but also language, accessibility...
  • Consider conflicts in other countries - how people might feel interacting with each other (e.g. client and counsellor)
  • Be sensitive when referring client to culturally-specific organizations/services

Partnerships/Best Practices

  • Sharing experiences
  • Attending seminars, self-education, sharing practices
  • Knowing services in the area
  • Guest speakers
  • Creating own tools and using existing ones
  • Self-training
  • (Online) resources
  • LIP materials


  • Think about what can be eliminated from the list by doing your work differently

Q&A - Panel Discussion

Doug - commented on value of breadth of the three presentations

Faed: how organizations provide I&R is very different; thinks I&R is undervalued (maybe not specific part of training but rather an assumption)

Andrew: looking at clients as whole people, not just as “person who needs housing”, etc.; SFC staff have I&R training (should have everyone across agency at 100%, i.e. able to answer client’s question, regardless of who answers)

Karine: YMCA is only I&R (different from settlement workers - refer to settlement workers); constantly updating fact sheets, having workshops in different languages

Andrew: SFC benefits from FindHelp information resources (before: binder of resources that constantly out of date)

Faed: gaps in information - should be aware of our limitations, gaps in knowledge; things change very quickly, never-ending task

Doug: Does I&R mean different things to different people?

Karine: important to understand what different agencies are doing

Faed: value of I&R standards; I&R different from assessment and referral; important to have some common understanding, e.g. “putting people and services together”

Doug - varying (quality of) I&R...

Karine: contact person if you realize you’ve made a mistake

Andrew: SFC tracks demographic information to try to deepen knowledge (properly identify true needs of community serving)

Karine: reputation precedes an agency, clients speak to others, e.g. language schools, colleges (in a way, this replaces, is more accurate than evaluation forms)

Doug: duplication of services (how to choose which one to refer client to)

Karine: look at client’s specific needs, agency location, hours, etc.; give several options

Faed: workers are not consumers of services they are referring to; not endorsing agencies; be careful not to get stuck in a rut (i.e. jump to answer, e.g. WES, before asking enough questions - e.g. For what purpose do you need credentials assessed?)

Andrew: sometimes it’s not really a question of duplication (e.g. LINC classes at certain level, time of day, childminding); find best option for client

Karine: remember specific client needs

Doug: What would you change if you could in the settlement sector?

Andrew: remove certain rules, e.g. don’t prioritize convention refugees over claimants (forget about stats); don’t assume a citizen here for 10 years is totally settled

Karine: have quarterly training for settlement workers about Canadian social policy

Faed: more PD, support for settlement workers (often the first thing cut when budgets are reduced); people often fall into the job; important to support them

Questions from the Floor

How to avoid people being asked the same questions at different agencies

  • Another audience member mentioned a swipe card
  • Faed highlighted OTIS (Online Tracking and Information System); noted barrier to clients using services when they have to repeatedly answer the same questions

Jackie (Library Settlement Program): questions people ask are very different depending on neighbourhood, location (How could this be captured in a database like OTIS?)

How often does 211 update database?

  • At least once a year; member agencies also welcome to update information themselves

In light of immigration changes (more people with higher language skills will start arriving), how will agencies adapt?

Thanks/Closing Remarks - Doug


This session run in collaboration with:

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